Peak(s):  "Peak Q"  -  13,230 feet
Guyselman Mountain  -  13,140 feet
"Peak N"  -  13,121 feet
Date Posted:  09/27/2014
Date Climbed:   09/19/2014
Author:  d_baker
 Autumn Effect   

Autumn Effect


September 18 - 21, 2014

High Country Leaf Peepers: Terri Horvath & Darin Baker

Peak Q (13,230')
Guyselman Mtn or "Peak M" (13,140')
Peak N (13,121')
- climbed by Terri
Gore Range

The Righteous and The Wicked

Trailhead: Rock Creek
Approach: Gore Range Trail -> Slate Creek Trail
Route(s): see map at end of report

View towards the start of the Slate Creek drainage, with Pk L and friends on the skyline


Day 1: backpack to Upper Slate Lake - ~10 miles
Day 2: Hike/climb of Q - ~4.5 miles RT (Round Trip)
Day 3: Hike/climb of M & N - ~4 miles RT (M only); ~6 miles RT (if adding N like Terri did)
Day 4: Pack out - ~10 miles

Elevation Gain

Day 1: ~3000'
Day 2: PK Q, ~2250 (Although in Dave Cooper's, Colorado Scrambles guidebook, he lists 2700' of gain from Upper Slate - maybe split the difference - I don't really care cuz' it's all uphill fun and worth it!)
Day 3: Guyselman & N, ~2650' (M only); ~3550 if adding N
Day 4: There's some uphill on the way out, for sure. (~1550')


"Longish" backpack on good trail.
Bushwacking to high peaks from camp at Upper Slate.
Route finding w/class 3 & 4, exposed scrambling on Q.
Steep slopes, class 2+ for Guyselman; some scrambling on Pk N (class 3?)

Exposed down-climb off of summit of Pk Q
Photo by Terri

Gear: Usual backpacking gear for 3 nights/4 days of hiking; helmet
*Special Note: Adding beef jerky and extra cheddar goldfish to beef ramen is tasty.

Resources Used For Trip Planning: Dave Cooper's Colorado Scrambles guidebook, Joe Kramarsic's Mountaineering in the Gore Range, NOAA forecast (for which the Gores out-favored our original plan of a Weminuche trip - yet this trip was not a consolation but an equal opportunists endeavor in search of Quality)


Vacation. What a wonderful word! Much better than this word: work. After a very busy summer (and still going strong on the current project), my scheduled vacation was finally here! Work be damned...I'm going hiking.

I set up basecamp in Montrose earlier in the week for hiking a handful of peaks in the San Juan Mountains prior to our planned trip to Sunlight Basin. However as the week wore on, so did the weather I was enjoying in that part of the state. The forecast was not a promising outlook for the Weminuche, so we looked elsewhere.

The Gores looked good. Ha! They usually do, right?


Two years ago, Terri and I did a backpack together into Upper Slate for a climb of Pk L - which turned out to be a great yet short 3 day trip. This time we had more time.

Terri is a crazed and driven 13er chasing lady. She still "needed" Pk Q and Pk N to add to her impressive collection of summits. At first glance, Q and N looked more suitable as two separate trips, but after looking at Kramarsic's guidebook, he confirmed a suspicion I had of hiking Guyselman from Upper Slate Lake. The next question was if N was accessible or traversable from Guyselman. According to a report on, it goes. However my quick glance at the report didn't provide info on how they were able to descend off of Guyselman to start the traverse. I don't mind saying that I'm not nearly as adventurous or ballsy as that group is.

On the map, it looked like it would be possible to descend off the north slopes of Guyselman's east ridge and then ascend the SE slopes of Pk N to gain the ridge. We thought Pk N might be worth the shot, at least for those chasing the finish line of a list.

Day 1: The Approach

The last time we went into Upper Slate, we used the Brush Creek approach. The road to get to the trailhead for Brush is notorious for being slippery when wet. Why tempt it?! Rock Creek it is - as it is generally friendly to any vehicle with decent clearance, although I think some passenger cars could reach this trailhead.

Strange Days

With our late start from the trailhead, we had a late arrival into Upper Slate Lake. The camping spot we used last time (which is essentially at the "end" of the strong trail leading to Upper Slate) was occupied so we continued on to the SW part of the lake and found an even better site than the one next to the lake. Sweet! This one comes with its own kitchen! It turned out to be a great site with easy access to running water and a good pad for the tent.

Photo by Terri

Day 2: Peak Q

What follows are a few pointers on getting to "South American Lake" that we found to be efficient for us. First this description that Cooper writes, "head up valley" to reach "South American Lake." I suggest thinking of this valley as having three tiers: the first & lowest tier holds Upper Slate Lake, the second tier holds the unnamed pond (at ~11,140), and the final and highest tier (before ascending towards the saddle of Pk Q and Pk R) holds "South American Lake."

Looking down at the "three tiers" of the valley (S. American Lake, UN Pond, Upper Slate Lake, l. to r.)

After leaving camp at Upper Slate Lake, stick to the SE side of the lake by following faint use trails, keeping the lake and then the inlet creek on your right and in sight. After passing by two separate cascading falls, the "route" trends towards the south and away from the creek ever so slightly while at the same time ascending to the "second tier."

Once arriving at the pond, look for a crossing on its NE side. We found a log to provide a good crossing to its N side where we stayed on the edge of the marshy area and the toe of a slope to contour toward a grassy gully that leads to the "third tier."

Log crossing and the grassy slopes that lead steeply to the third tier are ahead

Pk Q reflection in this small tarn as Terri hikes towards our access gully to the third tier

We ascended on the left side of the grass gully, and it lead to the upper tier where we turned to a more southern direction aiming for the point between Peak R to our left and Peak Q to our right. There's a somewhat short talus slope leading up to the basin below these two peaks.

Photo by Terri

Above the stable talus slope, we ascended snow to gain the face of the E ridge of Pk Q. Boots sufficed on the snow surface, although one section was a bit firm and a slip would result in a scary ride into talus below. Caution advised!


In the above photo, the upper snow slope was firmer and steeper. Kicked steps got us across to climber's right, where we aimed to reach the sunny slopes above.

Once back on rock, we could see a band of pinkish white rock that goes diagonally up towards a sub-ridge - which according to Cooper was where we would want to go. Following the class 2ish pink white granite ribbon worked well and we came to the bottom of a cliff as described by Cooper. Immediately after passing under the first cliff, to looker's left was a laid back dihedral, which Terri immediately dismissed it as our described route so we continued traversing around the N face to get in position to ascend the upper reaches of the mountain.


The above photo shows Terri heading toward the pinkish white granite band, which leads to the cliff w/arrow on the upper right skyline. On the mountain, the pink white granite band is easier to see than in this photo, but don't expect to find that arrow! Or many cairns.

What's around this corner?

Light snow on the route, but it didn't add to the difficulties other than extra caution.

Using Cooper's route description, Terri lead us to the promise land where the mountain reveals its fun side.


Last easy stretch before summit ridge
Photo by Terri

Ledge that leads to summit ridge

After gaining the summit ridge proper, there's a little more action before topping out: a mini-wannabe knife edge to get into a notch for the final exposed ~10-12' wall. The wall exposes one to a bad consequences fall, but the rock is good so long as holds are tested and time is taken to figure the best moves to get up (and down) this fun section.

Prime Time

Peak Z and Z Prime (the former is just right of center - Z Prime is to the r.) w/Grays and Torreys in the distance.

T is for Terri
Peak T on the right (12,640') w/Blue River Valley below. Photo by Terri


West Partner is the peak looker's left of Terri. Note the snow line - note to self - climb it.

To the NW at the start of the alphabet

Looking down the crux wall
Photo by Terri

Terri crossing the wannabe knife-edge

Peak R in the background as Terri down climbs the ledges

Enjoying the view before our last bit of descent off of Q
(Photo by Terri)

During our climb of Pk Q, we had looked over at the grassy slopes that we would use to approach Guyselman, so that evening after dinner we scouted the start of our route for Guyselman. Satisfied with how we were going to do the approach in the morning, we went back to camp for rest.

Day 3: Guyselman & Peak N

Both days of hiking peaks, we had the alpine start from camp after sun-up.....yeah fall time in the Rockies is tough stuff!

This is kind of how the route should go...and don't continue on the grassy slopes on the upper right

Photo taken on our way out on day 4

Getting to the base of the hill climb, we simply contoured around the lake starting from the prominent campsite that's at the "end" of the Slate Creek trail, contouring on the SE side of the lake and then on its E side. It's a big boulder for a while, but after ten minutes it's hard not to look forward to the steep grass above!



I Am Animal

Access gully for upper reaches of route

The above photo with the grass gully is where we should have gone to first thing. But nope! Darin insisted we needed to continue to our right to gain the ridge. Darin got his way, but the ridge route Darin found was not going to give up easily.
"Ummm.....Terri, maybe we should descend back down and traverse to that slope you suggested we use." Hard words to swallow when hiking with a peak bagger!

Well, the slope traverse wasn't too bad
Photo by Terri

En route to the eastern slopes of Guyselman (the summit is out of view to the right)

Terri got to the summit of Guyselman first sometime around noon, and immediately scouted how she would get to N. Once I got to the summit ~5 minutes later, she asked me if I minded if she went for N.
"Go for it."
Off she went. And for the next two hours, I became Summit Lounger. No stem-cell cocktails though.

From the summit of Guyselman, looking down at the E slopes and Terri's grass-to-talus gully down the north side of the east ridge (looker's left in photo)

C is for Crazy

Name that Peak game. How did I do?


2pm was Terri's goal to reach the summit of N.


From N
Photo by Terri

Nearly the same angle as the above photo, but from Guyselman

Terri let out a howl, and I returned one. So did coyotes down in the valley! Fun day to be on summits, and I'm thankful for the time I was able to spend on Guyselman Mountain - quite possibly a Gore summit that has the best views in this range! And I thought Q summit was pretty damn good!

I pulled the pack on, and started down toward the saddle to meet up with Terri as she made her own descent (and re-ascent) to get back to our route to camp.
The descent from the E ridge of Guyselman is steep grass but quick to the point. But then there's the boulder hopping to get around the lake! All in all not a bad way to do M & N (not that I know much about the N way...).

Day 4: Pack Out

No alarm set. Nice....real nice.
~6 of the 10 miles out was in rain & graupel. Not real nice.
But 3 days in Upper Slate and a few peaks made for a great trip! Q is a repeatable peak for doubt! N will come someday, but what's the rush?

Thanks for reading,


Approximate routes, but may (or probably) not represent our actual routes but close.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Comments or Questions
Kevin Baker
Good work
09/28/2014 03:44
Nice job, guys! N is a grunt from Upper Slate! M to N does go and is not as bad as it looks!

gore galore
A Good
09/28/2014 08:01
way to spend vacation time, there Darin. A couple of comments to your trip report if I may be permitted.
Those that go to Upper Slate Lake seem to use either the Brush Creek or Rock Creek approaches but there is a little known public access trail up Harrigan Creek from Higway 9 as another alternative. I have also used Boulder Creek from the Highway.
The picture of Peak T (right) and Point 12,385 with the Blue River valley far below is very characteristic of Gore peaks. Both have airy boulders as their summits.
I like your three tier thinking for the lakes in the Upper Slate Creek valley.
Regarding the ”note to self” on West Partner Peak snow line, I have climbed the left branch to what I call West Partner Point, the big buttress defining the east ridge. It is fairly steep with front pointing and some effort to get to the top and down. I have done another route on this side of the peak but know little of other exploration.
”How did I do on Name that Peak game?” The feature labeled Dwarf Pyramid is actually the Dinosaur Crags. The Dwarf Pyramid is the lower part to the left of the snow field on Mount Powell.
Your trip report makes me wish I had the time this year to do the one remaining route that I want to do in the Upper Slate Creek valley. I'll make time next year.

Super trip, team!
09/28/2014 12:34
Some super days in the Gores! I had my first experience in the Gores in late August and loved it. Was also able to see the beginnings of the aspen turning before I left for home too. The color is beautiful and you have some lovely shots. One of these years we need to meet up. Thanks for sharing it!

Nice Man!
09/28/2014 14:17
Fun to see another TR here after being back there earlier in the summer. Slate is a pretty amazing drainage, isn't it? Nice shots of the summit pitch on Q too - really liked those.

Great pics Darin!
09/28/2014 17:40
Say, that IS a good camping spot. And the kitchen is quite nice as well!
I like that shot of Z and Z prime aka ”Deon Sanders” peak - Ah that brings back memories.
Move back to CO already so we can climb a few more peaks!

Thanks for the comments
09/28/2014 23:06
Gore Galore...thanks for the tip on the different approaches and for the correction on Dwarf Pyramid. I'll have to edit that.

Fiend & Zambo...I remembered your trip so I finally got around to reading Chalk's report today! Good to know the laid back dihedral goes. And Rick, I am living here (in Broomfield) now! At least until probably Thanksgiving time when they put me on the road to a new destination. And yeah, our XYZ day was a good one!

I also saw another report on the M -> N traverse and it includes some good info. I almost wish I saw that before we went on our trip, but spending 2hrs alone on a summit was pretty special!

Nice TR
09/29/2014 03:04
Quite the trip and writing, Darin! Nice beta on Q and pics of the other peaks near it - probably high on the list for next year.

As in my TR, G>N: descend the SW gully on Guyselman 100 ft and curl around the spice to the W. Shoot through the big notch and then cruise, occasionally bypassing minor stuff to the right/E. Brief class 3.

Lovely Darin
09/29/2014 03:19
Your TR's never disappoint.

Really solid TR, Darin
09/29/2014 04:14
Awesome pics and narrative. Nice beta on M and N. Well done on getting this trip in.

Dad Mike
Love it
09/29/2014 16:08
Well done you two. Great report and incredible pics. I especially like the one of C and C Prime. Wow.

09/29/2014 18:31
This TR is first class. Well done and great info. That first pic pretty much sums up Colorado right now. Looking forward to making it into Slate next summer. Looks like one solid vacation! Hope you're doing great!

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